Blog 1 Group A: January 2012 Archives

The Way We Think

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Psychology.gifChapter 1 provides us with a brief overview of what psychology encompasses and provides an introduction to the subject. It explains how psychology is just as much of a science as physics, chemistry, and biology. It also provides readers with the six principles of scientific thinking:
1. Ruling out Rival Hypotheses
2. Correlation Isn't Causation
3. Falsifiability
4. Replicability
5. Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence
6. Occam's Razor

The chapter also introduces to the theoretical frameworks of society and the people who are considered the leading figures in these perspectives. The most useful information that I got out of Ch. 1 was table 1.7 which describes the different types of psychologists and what they do differently from each other.

Lucid dreaming, is it the answer to living out all of our wildest hopes and dreams? Unfortunately probably not, but it is an exciting topic of Chapter 5 where we learn about topics in the biology of sleep, dreams, alterations of consciousness and unusual experiences, and drugs and consciousness. Lucid dreaming is a dream in which the person is aware that they are having dream, they are neither totally asleep nor totally awake. One survey of lucid dreamers found that 72% could control what was happening in their dreams. Everyone wants to be able to fly, and with with lucid dreaming living out our fantasies in our dreams may be possibility that isn't too far off after all!
Tinker Bell and Peter Pan Fly to Neverland (1).jpg
Another Interesting topic under the section of The Biology of Sleep, is that of sleepwalking. did you know that 15-30% of children and 4-5% of adults sleep walk? Often while sleep walking very few actions may actually take place but in some cases people will drive cars, turn on computers and appliances, and even have sex while asleep!
Other important topics described in the chapter include: stages of sleep, out of body and near death experiences, hypnosis, substance abuse and dependence, depressants, stimulants, and several others.
Found in the section on stimulants i'll end with a fun fact. "Until 1903, Coca-Cola contained small amounts of cocain, and was advertised to cure your headache and relieve fatigue for only 5 cents!"

Pseudoscience has a strange way of popping up in our everyday lives. Or at least elements of pseudoscience do. We, as a society, are constantly bombarded with infomercial offers of miracle weight-loss diets, self-help gurus, and even miracle health cures. How do we distinguish between the truly helpful and the not-so-helpful?

snake-oil.jpg Pseudoscience is one of the focuses of Chapter 1 of the Lillienfield textbook, a chapter that dealt primarily with eliminating the bias from psychology by adopting a scientific approach. As a contrast to real science, pseudoscience--especially in psychology--poses a potentially dangerous threat to society through its unproven methods. Health patients are harmed by the exaggerated claims of pseudoscience when they choose to forgo relevant scientific treatments for alternative "medicines". Especially alarming is the common use of the ad doc immunizing hypothesis in pseudoscience, meaning that it is especially resistant to any methods that would put it under intense scrutiny. And yet, even unproven, a large portion of society still holds these beliefs for the sake of comfort and by the natural functioning of our brain.

So how do we deal with the constant bombardment of pseudoscience so prevalent in our modern lives? I found the various methods to tell pseudoscience apart from real science to be the most striking aspect of the chapter. Any advertisements that feature exaggerated claims, over-reliance on single anecdotes, and the apparent lack of peer-reviewed science are often the tell-tale signs of a false science. It's easy to fall for these traps--even when something claims to be "proven", it doesn't necessarily eliminate the biases that distinguish real from pseudoscience. So next time, when you see ads for the latest miracle cure of sorts, ask yourself this--is it science or is it pseudoscience?

... well of course she doesn't because she's not biologically yours. It's called adoption. But in some cases "Dat baby" might actually look like or act like you. In Chapter Three the topic of adoption studies arose from the concepts of nature vs. nurture. Is it nature, or is it nurture? Because this concept is so hard to study psychologists examine children who are not raised by their biological parents. They look to see whether its genetics or environment that drives a person to how they are. Some psychologists purposely place children in environments closely related to the environments of their biological parents because they believe that some peoples genetic make ups search specifically for certain environments. This can have both a positive and negative effect. If people are driven by their environment, placing a child from an abusive family with a caring and loving family would most definitely be the best choice. Do you think you would be any different if you were raised by the family across the street?

A little song credit to Shawty Put....

Pareidolia & Media

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Chapter 1 dealt mainly with the relationship between aspects of human psychology and its interaction with science, specifically pseudoscience, or claims that my seem scientific but are not. Signs of pseudoscience include exaggeration, a reliance on subjective anecdotes, an absence of multiple or reliable sources, lack of proof or revision, or a dependence on scientific jargon.

The chapter a number of logical fallacies that influence the way we interpret scientific or logical arguments, including the bandwagon fallacy - that something is validated by others belief in it, the "not me" fallacy - that we're unable to have errors in thinking that other people suffer, and the emotional reasoning fallacy - a heavy reliance on emotions.

What struck me about the chapter was the concept of pareidolia, or the idea that humans find meaning in otherwise arbitrary images. As an English and Cultural Studies major I come across many different types of media, which rely on similar concepts, one being cartoon imagery. For example, when we see a simply drawn face, as opposed to something more detailed, we not only recognize it as a face, but we also imprint our own identity onto the shape, which completely changes our reading of the text. The human mind's need to find patterns forces us to interact with images, specifically simple icons, like business logos or ads for example, in a way that makes us more apt to find seemingly arbitrary meaning.

Eric Best

After receiving this assignment, I immediately whipped out my five-pound text book and turned to page 493, only to find the words: Social Psychology. Since I have never taken a psychology course in my educational path, I started blankly at the page without a clue. Once deciding to finally skim through the pages, I had one question continuously running through my head: What is Social Psychology?

Social Psychology is the study of how people influence others behavior, beliefs, and attitudes.

Well there is a start. But while I was looking through the pages full of studies and examples of how others affect us, there was one study that caught my attention immediately: The Milgram Paradigm.

The Milgram Paradigm. began in the early 1960s as an experiment that would provide a window into the causes of obedience. Specifically this study focused on authority figures and harming others.

Here is a clip that, while it isn't the original, give good insight into how this works and can provide more information then me just listing off all the boring details. Enjoy!

Chapter 14 is all about Personalities and what different influences help to make everyone's personality unique. One thing I found particularly interesting, is the theory that geography can affect the development of one's personality. Since I am a Minnesotan, born and bred, I found it intriguing that the stereotype of "Minnesota Nice" may be scientifically explained. The book shows a map of the United States and colored the states based on a scale of high to low extraversion of their citizens. With no surprise, Minnesota ranked among the most extraverted states, proving that people here are more likely to work together and have no problem talking to strangers. 5488823250_57d22f0c19_z.jpg
With no surprise, states like New York rated on the low end of the spectrum, proving the East Coast tough-guy stereotype. Taking the geographical understanding of personalities to a worldwide scale, it would also be interesting to compare people in different countries.

alternative jpg Complementary and alternative medicines are popular around the world when it comes to treating and preventing illness. Many use these medicines as an alternative to conventional medicine. Examples of these unconventional medicines people probably believe are conventional such as chiropractic, and herbal remedies. Providers of these medicines often claim that they will improve the patients condition, yet they have not yet been proven effective by scientific standards. These medicines are so popular in the United States that Americans spend $34 billion in this industry. 38% of adults and 12% of children reported using these methods in 2008.

The largest area of this industry include the sale of vitamins, herbs, and food supplements. On average Americans spend over $22 billion a year for these treatments with uncertain effectiveness. Many people take vitamins to ensure their health. In my dorm I have my own vitamins and calcium pills which I try to take as often as I can remember, but are these actually helping me? It turns out that my calcium pills do little to prevent bone loss. As for my vitamin pills, the vitamin C does lower the severity and length of colds but the vitamin E can actually increase the risk of death from various causes. These pills also provide "mega doses" so the consumer is receiving amounts of vitamins and minerals much greater than the recommended dose. The label on my vitamin pills states that I am taking between 25%-2000% of the recommended daily value depending on the vitamin or mineral; is this really good for me? This article gives great insight into the harmful sides of vitamins. Experts say that we can get sufficient amounts of what we need just by eating a balanced diet, that seems like a much cheaper and safer alternative to purchasing and consuming vitamin pills.

Almost 20% of Americans have reported seeing a chiropractor in attempts to treat pain and injuries. These health professionals manipulate the spine to treat pain. These doctors cannot perform surgery or prescribe medications to patients in an attempt to ease pain. Many people claim that visiting a chiropractor in fact does help; I have had plenty of friends and family members who would claim this. I have always thought the Chiropractic treatments were a proven method of healing the body. To my surprise there is no scientific support to this practice. It is believed that that some chiropractic procedures may help, they are no better than the results one would receive with exercise, using pain relievers, , physical therapy, and general practitioner care.

After learning about these two types of unconventional medicines that are widely used by Americans and present in my life it makes me wonder if they are worth wild? Both are pricy practices and it seems as if the results are either harmful or a placebo effect. The article linked to this page states a question which I, myself am wondering about. If there is so much information out there about the dangerous effects and ineffectiveness of these treatments, why are they still so highly in use by Americans?

Oh, the joys of research!

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As beginning psychology students, we may wonder why we need to learn about research methods. Chapter 2 not only explains the importance of a good research method, but also the different types of psych.jpg designs a researcher may use. One important thing that makes research designs necessary is all the many biases and errors the human mind can make. Hindsight bias and overconfidence, two examples of cognitive biases that we can make, result in overestimating our abilities during research. Two research designs that the chapter touches on are correlation designs and experimental designs. A correlation research design examines the extent to which two variables are associated, and an experimental research design allows us to draw cause-and-effect conclusions. As the chapter continues, it also talks about ethical issues in research design (both in human and animal research), statistics, and evaluating psychological research. Here is a video that defines some of the key terms used in chapter 2:

IMG_0016.JPGEver since we were little, my younger sister and I have argued about who is the smarter daughter between us. Although we are both good students and get grades that are approved of by our parents, has it finally come to the point that I might actually be smarter? According to recent studies, older siblings have proven to score higher on IQ tests than their younger siblings. In a study at the University of Oslo, the mean IQ of first-born kids was just over 103, second-borns just over 100, and third-borns about 99. Although this might make older children excited, researchers have recently discovered a more accurate reason for higher scores is in fact social upbringing rather than biological birth order. Younger kids tend to be more outgoing and get better grades in the classroom, while the eldest tend to have an overall higher intelligence and sense of professionalism. With that in mind, it's not necessarily being born first that could make you smarter, but rather being raised as the eldest child.

Ariel Rice
James-Franco-1.jpg The chapter I was given to look over involved the many different aspects of language. The topics discussed were how language came to be, what it involves, how babies learn a language and many others. It also went into discussing thinking and reasoning, like how we accomplish our goals and the inner workings of our mind. But the topics I found most interesting involved teaching human language to nonhuman animals. I had recently watched the movie The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It involved a very smart chimpanzee that learned to sign, even though this was a fictional movie I became interested in knowing if it is possible to teach chimpanzees or any other apes to sign. This section in this chapter was able to help me understand that it is very difficult to teach any animal to learn our language. When teaching a chimpanzee the human language, researchers realized that chimpanzees aren't able to master syntactic rules, which is how words are combined to create meaning. They were only able to communicate requests of food or other activities but not to combine words into sentences like it was seen in Planet of the Apes. In the movie the chimpanzee was able to communicate short, but meaningful sentences to the main character. However, there are two different species that are able to learn the language even better. One of the species is the Bonobo, which is even more genetically alike to humans. Unlike chimpanzees they learn through observation and can use symbols to comment in interactions rather than just to receive a treat. The other animal is the African gray parrot, as many people know they are able to mimic words and noises that they hear. However, they can go beyond that. They are able to create combinations words that are meaningful and also master syntactic rules of language. However, they learn through repetition rather than interacting in the world. Language is very complex and has evolved over time and is one of the best ways to communicate complex ideas and thoughts to one another.
Check out this video of a gorilla named Koko who uses sign language to communicate with people. She is learning how to sign butterfly in this video!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Blog 1 Group A category from January 2012.

Blog 1 Group A: February 2012 is the next archive.

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